New US league launches and they want NRL talent
Fancy getting paid up to $120,000 a year to live in the US and play footy?
The North American Rugby League wants to hear from you.
NRL players will be targeted by a new American professional rugby league competition which will feature 14 teams across the country backed by annual grants worth a combined $4.2 million.
The North American Rugby League was launched early on Thursday in the US.
Two teams will be based out of Canada - the Ottawa Aces and Toronto Wolfpack.
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The remaining 12 teams are the Atlanta Rhinos, Austin Armadillos, Boston Thirteens, Brooklyn Kings, Cleveland Rugby League, Las Vegas Blackjacks, New York Rugby League, Phoenix Venom, Portland Loggers, San Diego Swell, San Francisco Rush and Washington Cavalry.
Each club will be issued a yearly grant of $300,000, with money raised through sponsorships and investors. Franchises can further increase their finances through club sponsorship and merchandise.
It means NRL players could earn up to $120,000 a season to play in the US. NRL agents were already expressing interest in the new competition when contacted yesterday.
All games will be screened globally by fledgling Australian company Sports Flick with games also shown on CBC in Canada and beIn Sports through Europe and the Middle East.
The NARL is hoping to strike a deal with Fox Sports in the US and Australia.
The opening game of the new competition will be played on June 19 this year in Brooklyn then in Las Vegas the next day.
Several franchise owners have Australian links.
Teams will comprise mostly North American players with imports expected to join the competition in coming years.
There are plans for 14 marquee players to be entered into a draft with one player to be annually purchased and distributed to each franchise. Those 14 players will be signed centrally by the NARL.
Former Melbourne, Newcastle and Cronulla player Dustin Cooper will play for Boston.
This year, however, the 14-team competition will be reduced to 12 with the two Canadian sides unable to travel and compete in America due to COVID. The 14-team will start next year, pending a decrease in COVID numbers.
The competition, to be played on Saturdays and Sundays, will be split into conferences.
This year the East Coast Conference will comprise Atlanta, Boston, Brooklyn, Cleveland, New York and Washington, with the West Coast Conference boasting Austin, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego and San Francisco. Ottawa and Toronto will play for the Canada Cup this year.
Due to COVID precautions and restrictions, all teams will play this year in the one stadium inside their conference with no fans.
The New York-based chief operating office of the league, Robert Curtis, said the new competition was "the next big evolutionary step for rugby league."
"The NARL is the culmination of years of research and market testing and has been designed to bring you the hardest hitting, fastest and most exciting sport on the planet. Matches begin this summer. It's time to get excited about a new class of contact sport," he said.
There is an existing US rugby league competition, the USARL, which is amateur.
Three USARL clubs - Atlanta, Brooklyn and Boston - have switched to the new professional competition. The NARL insists it is not a rebel league and wants to work with the USARL.
"We see NARL as an addition to the existing rugby league structures in the United States and certainly do not see ourselves as a 'rival' or 'rebel' league," Curtis said.
"Our sole aim is to grow the fantastic sport of rugby league in North America and create a legacy for generations to come."
Queensland-born US captain Mark Offerdahl, who played junior rugby league for the Manly Sea Eagles in a career that took him to the London Broncos and Sheffield Eagles, will also play in the inaugural NARL competition.
Name: North America Rugby League
Competition structure: 14 teams, two conferences
Clubs: Atlanta Rhinos, Austin Armadillos, Boston Thirteens, Brooklyn Kings, Cleveland Rugby League, Las Vegas Blackjacks, New York Rugby League, Ottawa Aces, Phoenix Venom, Portland Loggers, San Diego Swell, San Francisco Rush, Toronto Wolfpack, Washington DC Cavalry.
Annual club grant: $300,000
Broadcast: Sports Flick (globally), CBC (Canada), beIn Sports (Europe, Middle East)
NARL chief operating officer: Robert Curtis
Competition start date: June 19, 2021
Marquee player earnings: Up to $120,000 (Australian) a year
Games: Four on Saturday, four on Sunday
Originally published as New US league launches and they want NRL talent